It is about the emotional reaction to the plot. The character’s reaction and the audience’s reaction.
Too often, the new writer thinks MORE plot will save them. This is rarely, if ever, true. One of my biggest realizations from breaking down the structure of screenplays was seeing just how simple the plots actually are.
The only thing that gives plot value is that there is an emotional reaction to it. Whether it’s an event, a bit of information, whatever. It affects how a character feels and therefore affects a character’s behavior. And that emotional reaction needs time.
Don’t rush by things. Don’t move on to the next thing until this current thing is done. You’ve created the moment. Take advantage of it. Explore it. Have fun with it, or maybe just use it to punch your hero in the gut.
Done right, the audience will have an emotional reaction to the character’s reaction — even if the character tries desperately to hide their emotion. This is why reaction shots are so important, and why we need to see a hero celebrate their victory with a loved one. It’s the essence of storytelling.
Experienced improvisors are already familiar with this basic tenet. The strange behavior of someone in a scene is rarely the thing we are laughing at. We are usually laughing at the emotional reaction of those in the scene to the strange behavior. Both from the observers and from the individual with the strange behavior. How they feel about the behavior is where most of the comedy is going to come from.
Before introducing more plot, ask yourself if you’ve explored the natural emotional reaction of the last bit of plot you introduced. If not, what’s the point? More plot for the sake of plot? Please, don’t do that.
No one goes to the movies for plot. People go to the movies because movies evoke emotion. Plot is just one of the many tools we use to do that, but it is not the goal in itself.
I am teaching a series of online workshops beginning April 10th, 2021. You can the first one here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/story-and-plot-online-story-structure-for-screenwriting-workshop-tickets-141200996983
For more information about other classes and workshops in Texas, Los Angeles and online, visit storyandplot.com.